Re: Readability---initial caps?

Subject: Re: Readability---initial caps?
From: Melvin Farris <melvinf -at- AKS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 1996 14:45:31 +0200

On Jun 14, 7:15am, Kat Nagel/MasterWork wrote:
> Subject: Readability---initial caps?
> Please forgive the cross-posting. I vaguely remember a similar topic
> discussed on one of these lists (TECHWR-L, copyediting-l, utest) over

> year ago but <snivel> I didn't save the discussion. Now the issue
> become critical on a tight-deadline project, and I have nothing to
back up
> my opinion except --- er, um --- vague memories.

> The project: a PowerPoint presentation with 45 slides

> The issue:

> The graphic artist on the project believes that projected text
> and computer displays) is remembered better if -all- significant
> (everything except articles and short prepositions) have initial
caps. He
> bases this on many years of experience designing and presenting
> materials to diverse audiences.

> The writer (me) believes that while -titles- look good with every
> initial-capped, -body text- should follow standard usage: only
> nouns and first-word-in-sentence should be capped.

> Examples:

> The Business Information Directory Is the
> Business Person's Guide to <Company-name> Information
> and
> <bullet> Resolves Cross-Platform Integration Issues

> vs.

> The Business Information Directory is the
> business person's guide to <Company-name> information
> and
> <bullet> Resolves cross-platform integration issues

> I've done a quick search of my usability/readability files, and a
> literature search at the library. While I can find plenty of
> saying "don't use ALL CAPS", I find only scattered oblique references
> the initial caps issue.

> The other writer and artist on the project are sitting back and
letting us
> fight it out. At the moment, I've gotten my way only with the direct
> quotes. Everything else (all 45 slides) has most words in headings
> body text with initial caps. It is driving me nuts.

> Can anyone refer me to definitive articles/books that discuss
> for initial caps vs standard usage? Or quote results from usability
> studies they have done on this? Official deadline is Monday, June
17, but
> simple text changes can be done on Tuesday if needed.

> Thank you,

> @Kat _______________________________

Hello Kat,

General speaking slides should be brief reminders about the kind
of information that is presented. If the slide is a stand alone
presentation then perhaps long sentences might be called for.
But who has time or patience to read long sentences.

Accordingly, slide presentationa should, generally, display short
succinct ideas. This means that topic headings are actually shown
Therefore, by extension, then first letter of each word should be
in caps. This in fact is easier for the reader to comprehend. And
there are a lot of studies about how eyes scan material. Unfortunately
less about reading online text, which is back lighted.

However, if you wish to stick to sentences then the sentences, should
appear as normal sentence, that is First letter of the sentences in
Caps, as in normal English. However, a better design and easier for
your audience (readers) is to divid up the title and explanatory
text. Therefore, one design solution might be:

- The Business Information Directory
Is the business person's guide to information:

Or you can use side-by-side paragraphing, which is very effective
in slide presentations.

The rule of thumb is that people do not generally like to see the exact
same information on the screen that the lecturer is presenting. This
is boring.

But if the your presentation is a stand alone then perhaps more
information is required. But always keep in mind that people do
not generally read slides (as much as we technical writer would like
to think), but scan slides. Therefore, it is necessary to give
them visual cues to be able to scan quickly.

This I write to you both as a technical writer and designer. Sometimes
we writers must put aside our verbage in order to get the message

I hope that this lengthy note is of some assistance.

All the best,

Mel Farris

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Aladdin Knowledge Systems Ltd.
Tel.: +972-3-636-2292
Tel.: +972-3-636-2288
Fax.: +972-3-639-0498
E-mail: melvinf -at- aladdin -dot- co -dot- il
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